Agencies/London, United Kingdom
The first ever Premier League mid-season break pleased Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp as it allowed the runaway leaders to rest their aches and pains following the hectic festive period.
The 52-year-old German takes his players to bottom-placed Norwich today holding a 22-point lead over two-time defending champions Manchester City.
Klopp said the break will have done his squad the world of good as he knew from his own playing experience.
“I was a player myself. When I look back it feels like I played through 80 percent of the time with pain,” he said at his eve of match press conference.
“Nobody appreciated that because I played bad so it didn’t help. Nobody asked then. It is completely normal for a professional football player to play through pain.
“After that long period in December-January, there was no player in the squad who had no pain. Everybody had something.”
Klopp — whose Champions League holders travel to Atletico Madrid next week in their last 16 first leg clash — has also been boosted by the return to fitness from hamstring injuries of Senegal attacker Sadio Mane and veteran James Milner.
Mane has missed the last four matches while Milner has been out since January 5.
“Millie (Milner) and Sadio are back. When they are back you consider them immediately,” said Klopp.
“Apart from (Xherdan) Shaqiri, (Nathaniel) Clyne and (Paul) Glatzel, all the players are in training.
“We have some good options. Hopefully it stays like this for the rest of the season.”
Klopp says Norwich may be struggling at the bottom — they are seven points adrift of safety — but he is full of respect for their adventurous style of play.
“I really admire that Norwich stick to their principles. It’s really good football, super coaching,” Klopp said.
“You can see all the patterns on the pitch, all the movements — that’s from the training ground. They’ve caused 95 percent of all teams real problems.
“They’ve lost a lot of these games, that’s why they’re in the situation they are, but for me, on the outside, it looks like a club that really sticks together.”
We have a free shot at Liverpool: Norwich’s Farke
Norwich City manager Daniel Farke said his players can take a “free shot” at Liverpool, who are unbeaten in their last 42 Premier League matches, today.
It would appear a hopeless mission for Norwich to halt Liverpool’s title match, but Farke’s side have shown plenty of spirit despite their precarious position and did beat reigning champions Manchester City 3-2 at Carrow Road.
“They are one of the best teams in European history,” Farke told reporters yesterday. “It’s a huge task and we know that.
“We have our strengths and if we bring our best football on the pitch, we can get something.”
Norwich have won only four of their 25 games this season since being promoted, yet are not cut adrift.
While seven points between them and 17th-placed Aston Villa sounds a lot, the injuries that have blighted their season have relented and there remains a belief that they can survive.
“We had an unbelievable injury curse at the beginning of the season but you have to back the lads who are available. Now we are in a better position,” he said.
“I can’t guarantee it (having three centre-backs available) is enough to beat Liverpool, but we will definitely try to do that. It’s like a free shot tomorrow because we have to deliver in the following games.
“It would be great to get one or three points tomorrow but we also want to enjoy it. Liverpool are the best team in the world and we need to be there with an outstanding performance.”
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